Brown cheese PLEASE!
If it’s one thing a Norwegian loves, almost without fail, it’s a slice or three of brown cheese - or brunost. Some compare it to vegemite/marmite, declaring it a love-it or hate-it affair, but I don’t think it contains nearly as much potential for offence as either of those local delicacies.
It’s called brown cheese because that’s the best way to describe it: a creamy caramel brown colour, with a smooth texture and a mildly cheesy flavour. It has a sweetness that’s quite pleasing and helps make it a snack for any time of the day or night. Breakfast brunost on toast with jam, lunchtime brunost for that little sweet craving after a sandwich or for an anytime snack – mid-afternoon, after dinner… Needless to say they eat A LOT of it.
Head to the local supermarket and you’ll find a fridge full of brands and consistencies. But what is it?
Gleaned from the expert and no doubt precise knowledge of Wikipedia (check for yourself) brunost is the result of a process of boiling goat and cow’s milk, cream and whey to the point where the water evaporates and the sugars caramelize. This gives the brunost its sweetness.
A lighter treatment results in a substance that shares similarities with something closer to a spreadable cream cheese.
Now the BBC tells me that ‘brown cheese’ isn’t cheese at all, technically, but why change the habit of a lifetime and nation?
I always get quite excited at the prospect of a week or so of brown cheese eating when I come to Norway but I wondered if there was anything more to be done with this very particular substance. It being a sweet ‘cheese’ I though that the natural conclusion would be cheesecake. This, apparently, wasn’t a conclusion anyone in the household had come by but they were enthusiastic in their support. We gave it a shot and I’m happy to report the experiment had pleasing results, although I think some of the natives were humouring me with their complements and will continue to devour their brunost in a more traditional manner.
If you can find some brunost outside of Norway give it a try.
Brown cheese cheesecake/ Brunostkake
250g choc top digestive biscuits
400g cream cheese
300g prim (soft brown cheese)
½ cup icing sugar
Melt the butter in a small pan. Use a small amount to brush onto the 20cm round springform cake tin.
Crush the digestive biscuits to a fine sand-like crumb in a mixing bowl and add the remainder of the melted butter and mix though thoroughly.
Press the biscuit mixture on the base of the tin and refrigerate.
Beat the cream cheese until light creamy. Add the Prim and lemon juice beat till combined.
Sift in the icing sugar and mix.
Pour onto the biscuit base and smooth evenly over the surface. Refrigerate overnight.
Serve with foraged raspberries – if you’re lucky enough to have them!